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Runic Dictionary

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Starkaðr gamli Stórvirksson (StarkSt)

volume 8; ed. Margaret Clunies Ross;

Víkarsbálkr (Vík) - 33

Starkaðr inn gamli ‘the Old’ Stórvirksson (StarkSt) was a legendary Scandinavian hero, known to Danish, Norwegian, Icelandic and possibly Anglo-Saxon traditions. Some sources (e.g. Saxo Grammaticus (Saxo 2015, I, vi. 5. 2, pp. 378-9), one version of Heiðr and Víkarsbálkr (Vík) in Gautr) claim that he was born a giant with six or eight arms, which the god Þórr reduced to two by tearing off the remainder. Both in Saxo and in Gautr, Starkaðr is represented as a hero of prodigious strength and bravery, but influenced by the gods Óðinn and Þórr to commit acts of gross treachery, the best-known of which is his mock sacrifice of his friend, King Víkarr, at Óðinn’s instigation. The mock sacrifice turns into the real thing, and, as a consequence, Starkaðr is repudiated by his warrior companions. Saxo and the Icelandic sources also know Starkaðr as a poet. Skáldatal (SnE 1848-87, III, 251, 259) heads its list of poets and their patrons with Starkaðr’s name as that of the earliest poet whose identity people remember, adding that he composed about the kings of Denmark. In Ht Snorri Sturluson names a verse-form, Starkaðar lag, after Starkaðr (SnE 2007, 38), while in TGT Óláfr Þórðarson quotes a fragment (StarkSt Frag 1III) which he attributes to him. In Gautr the autobiographical poem Víkarsbálkr ‘Víkarr’s Section’ (VíkVIII) is attributed to Starkaðr.

Víkarsbálkr — StarkSt VíkVIII (Gautr)

Not published: do not cite (StarkSt VíkVIII (Gautr))

stanzas:  1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9   10   11   12   13   14   15   16   17   18   19   20   21   22   23   24   25   26   27   28   29   30   31   32   33 

SkP info: VIII, 283

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

31 — StarkSt Vík 31VIII (Gautr 39)

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance


Cite as: Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.) 2017, ‘Gautreks saga 39 (Starkaðr gamli Stórvirksson, Víkarsbálkr 31)’ in Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.), Poetry in fornaldarsögur. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 8. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 283.

Hér settu mik         sveina milli,
heldr hæðinna         ok hvítbránna.
Skelkja skatnar         ok skaup draga,
ófs óframir,         at jöfurs greppi.

Hér settu mik milli sveina, heldr hæðinna ok hvítbránna. Skatnar skelkja ok draga skaup, ófs óframir, at greppi jöfurs.

Here they set me between serving men, rather mocking and white-eyelashed. The fellows mock and, exceedingly cautious, hold the prince’s poet up to ridicule.

Mss: 590b-cˣ(6v) (Gautr)

Readings: [3] hæðinna: hæðinn 590b‑cˣ    [4] hvítbránna: hvítbránn 590b‑cˣ    [6] skaup: ‘skop’ 590b‑cˣ

Editions: Skj: Anonyme digte og vers [XIII], E. 13. Vers af Fornaldarsagaer: Af Gautrekssaga II 23: AII, 328, BII, 348, Skald II, 187, FF §28; FSN 3, 36-7, Gautr 1900, 33, FSGJ 4, 33; Edd. Min. 43.

Context: A short prose paragraph in 590b-cˣ separates Vík 30 (Gautr 38) from the final three stanzas of Vík, which are cited after this without prose intervention. The prose text first comments on Starkaðr’s self-condemnation of his killing of Víkarr and then on his situation at Uppsala, where twelve berserks who were employed as mercenaries (málamenn) were very aggressive and mocking towards him. The prose text further states that Starkaðr was silent (þǫgull, cf. Gautr 37/7) – presumably not responding to their insults – but the berserks called him a reborn giant (endrborinn jǫtunn) and a traitor (níðingr), svá sem hér segir ‘as it says here’.

Notes: [All]: The three final stanzas of Vík (at least as it occurs in 590b-cˣ) are not found in either 152 or papp11ˣ. — [All]: There is some resemblance between Vík 31-3 (Gautr 39-41) and part of one of Starkatherus’s poems in Saxo (Saxo 2015, I, vi. 9. 4, pp. 424-6), in which the aged hero contrasts his previously favourable reception at Fróði’s court with his present despised position among the riff-raff in the hall. — [2] sveina ‘serving men’: Sveinn is probably used here in the sense ‘servant, attendant’ (cf. Fritzner: sveinn 4) rather than ‘youth, lad’, although the latter cannot be ruled out, especially if it has a pejorative edge. — [3-4] heldr hæðinna ok hvítbránna ‘rather mocking and white-eyelashed’: The two adjectives hæðinn ‘mocking’ and hvítbránn ‘having white eyelashes’ are in the m. nom. sg. in the only ms. of this stanza, but the noun sveina ‘serving men’ (l. 2), which they probably qualify, is m. acc. pl. For this reason, following Edd. Min. (reportedly following a suggestion of Axel Olrik), Skj B and Skald, this edn emends each adj. to m. acc. pl. It is not clear why the serving men should be described as having white eyelashes. However, Án 5 may throw some light on the matter, because the rare conjunction of heldr and hæðinn ‘rather mocking’ occurs there also in l. 7 (cf. LP: hæðinn), as does the adj. hvíthaddaðr ‘fair-haired’ (l. 3). The stanza describes how a group of girls mocks Án Bow-bender because of his outlandish clothing. It is possible that pale hair or eyelashes was somehow associated with mockery, though exactly how or why is unclear. — [6] skaup ‘ridicule’: With Skj B and Skald, this edn adopts CPB’s suggested emendation (CPB II, 548) of the ms.’s ‘skop’, which does not make sense in this context. — [7] ófs óframir ‘exceedingly cautious’: This edn understands this adjectival phrase, referring to Starkaðr’s insulters, as ironic, possibly litotic. Ófs ‘exceedingly’ is often used as an intensifier with adjectives, while óframr ‘cautious’ is well attested (cf. Sigv Berv 15/3II). Kock (FF §28) suggests ófs óframir means som stora uslingar ‘as great villains’. The ms.’s ‘öframer’ is interpreted as oframmir by Skj B in the sense ‘very strong’, and the whole phrase understood to mean stærke i deres overdrevne adfærd ‘strong in their exaggerated behaviour’. — [8] greppi ‘poet’: This noun sometimes means ‘man’ in poetry, but much more often is one of several terms for ‘poet’; cf., among others, Bragi Troll 1/4III, Þhorn Harkv 18/3I and Anon Nkt 1/3II.

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